Among the hordes of new iPod accessories on the market, perhaps the most intriguing is the $999 ViewSonic PJ258D projector-and it's a pretty powerful one at that. Under its slick, glossy black exterior beats the heart of a business projector that might outshine much of its competition. Although it weighs less than four pounds, the manufacturer claims it can beam out 2000 ANSI lumens, and on our lab test, we saw no fewer than 2265 lumens.
But the PJ258D is focused more on Pirates of the Caribbean than on PowerPoint. Just insert a video iPod into the oversized dock on the projector's top panel and you can start watching your video in a size limited only by the dimensions of your walls. The projector's remote has control buttons that relay directly to the iPod. The process works extremely well, considering there was no laptop or DVD player involved. The only problems we saw were some slight motion artifacts caused no doubt by the iPod.
We watched parts of Pirates of the Caribbean and some of Gone in 60 Seconds. The image was very clear for both movies when blown up on a 60-inch screen, although Johnny Depp's makeup became very noticeable at this size-a testament to the quality of the projector. We never did get to the point where the image was too big to enjoy. At 10 feet, you'll get an 88-inch display, and at 20 feet, the image is more than 8 feet in height, which maxed out our testing facility. You'll want to dim the lights for such a big display, but the image is still plenty bright for movies at that size.
Unfortunately, the PJ258D does not incorporate all of the iPod design philosophy, which focuses not only on visual design but also on the user experience. The projector's control panel is hidden on the rear panel, and its buttons are small and poorly labeled. The all-important power button is particularly hard to find. Obviously, presenters are meant to use the remote control, which includes a prominent power button as well as a handy laser pointer. Business users, however, might bemoan the remote's lack of buttons for controlling a presentation on their laptops. Our advice: Save your PowerPoint slideshows as JPEGs and transfer them to the iPod.
The PJ258D is also surprisingly hot and noisy. After 30 minutes, the right side of the projector was too hot to touch, and the fan noise was too loud for enjoyable viewing. To get the noise down to acceptable levels, we reset the projector to the lowest of its four power settings, which still provided plenty of light (about 1700 lumens). Speaking of noise, we were surprised to find that this movie-oriented projector has only a single one-watt speaker. For most videos, you'll want to connect a pair of small computer speakers.
Despite some flaws, the ViewSonic PJ258D is a groundbreaking entertainment projector that also happens to offer an enviable combination of power, portability, and price. And its three-year warranty (with one year on the lamp) is one of the best in the industry. Still, its rough edges might cause some to wait for the sequel.
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